As entries for the two-day 84km Euro Steel Drak Descent approach sold-out status, the race organisers vowed to stay true to its ethos of providing a tough but technically manageable test of mountain biking skills.
The route takes in single track, cattle paths and a little district road shadowing the course of the N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon that meanders down the uMzimkhulu River as it passes through Underberg.
“Our philosophy is that the ride should be a tough one technically, even if it isn’t that far distance wise,” said event organiser Derek Christie. “So, please don’t expect all tailored and manicured trails!”
No easy ride
“We believe that 90% of the riders should finish this race 90% of the time,” he elaborated.
“It is not meant to be an easy ride. It is what the fans call ‘real mountain biking’ and we try to live up to that reputation,” he said.
Part of the first stage moves through trails used by the Sani Spoors MTB Park, which provides well groomed trails, year-round, but most of the single track on the route is only ridden once a year, for the Drak Descent.
While the route follows the river valley, there is still around 900m of climbing across both days, and some technically demanding rocky sections that will ask questions of even the most skilled mountain bikers.
KAP sani2c founder Glen Haw agrees, and says it is one of the most technically demanding stage races on the calendar.
Andrew Hill, who won the race last year as a solo rider, says it is the untamed nature of the route that makes this ride unique.
“It is almost taking us back to where mountain biking started,” said TIB Insurance’s Hill. “As riders we look to be tested by the trails that we ride, and this race has some sections of rocky trail that make it unique.
“There are some sections where we ride down on to the rocks alongside the river, and if the river comes up like the paddlers are hoping for, we will be riding through the river,” Hill added.
Hill made it clear that while it was more technically challenging that most race courses, it was still very manageable.
“It is a good workable course,” Hill said.
Euro Steel Drak Descent
Day 1: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – 41km from Restmount Children’s Home to Swartberg Road Bridge
Day 2: Sunday, January 20, 2019 – 43km from Glencairn Farm to Umzimkhulu River Lodge
Team R1500, Solo R750 (substitutions at a cost of R200)
Euro Steel MTB Challenge
Day 1: Saturday, January 19, 2019 – 25km
Day 2: Sunday, January 20, 2019 – 18km
R400 per rider for both days
There is currently no closing date for the Euro Steel MTB Challenge.
More information can be found at www.drakadventure.co.za
- Main picture, top: “The Euro Steel Drak Descent is not meant to be an easy ride. It is what the fans of this race call ‘real mountain biking’ and we try to live up to that reputation,” says race organiser Derek Christie. Picture: Graham Daniel/Euro Steel